Dorset Police Rural Crime officers and Hampshire Constabulary executed warrants at two rural locations in East Dorset on 14 June as part of Operation Hardware. Nearly £500,000 of suspected stolen machinery was recovered during the operation and a webpage has been set up to help find the rightful owners.
Intelligence-led Operation Hardware was created following a suspicious incident in Hampshire. A vehicle was reported as driving at speed along the A338. As Hampshire police officers followed, it made an abrupt turn, mounted a grass area and disappeared.
Detailed investigations into the vehicle showed it had been stolen from London, the number plates being used on it had been cloned from a vehicle out of county and therefore the insured driver was not the legal owner of the vehicle.
This gave reasonable grounds to execute search warrants at the home address of the insured driver.
A wide area search was conducted at two rural locations in East Dorset and several vehicles reported as stolen from Dorset and Essex were located and seized, as well as a large quantity of plant and agricultural machinery. A device, believed to be a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) making machine, was also recovered and seized.
A 21-year-old man from East Dorset was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving, theft and handling stolen goods and a 47-year-old male, also from East Dorset, was arrested on suspicion of theft and handling stolen goods.
An 82-year-old man, from East Dorset, was arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods. They have all been released under investigation as enquiries continue.
Acting Inspector Lee Turner from Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, said: “This is an example of the importance of partnership working. We are in regular contact with our partners in Hampshire Constabulary, sharing information to disrupt and detect suspected cross border criminality. Operation Hardware was an opportunity for us to come together and target a cross border suspect, known by officers in both Dorset Police and Hampshire Constabulary.
Police Constable Adrian Woodhead from Hampshire Constabulary said: “This cross-border operation highlights the importance, and value, of working closely together with our neighbouring forces.
“The joint operation with Dorset Police has helped to not only recover valuable plant and farm machinery – which we’ll be working to locate their rightful owners – but has also helped to disrupt what we believe to be organised criminal activity.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, David Sidwick added: “This is another prime example of what can be achieved when working in partnership and across county borders. I know that organised crime groups target farms in order to steal expensive machinery and vehicles, and the cost to rural businesses can be financially crippling.
“In my Police and Crime Plan there is a specific priority to tackle ‘Rural Crime’ and I am pleased to say that since becoming PCC, the Rural Crime Team has seen significant investment which has resulted in a 400% rise in resourcing, that the Rural Crime Reduction Board, which has been implemented by my office, has brought together an array of public service and private partners, all of whom are now working together with a common purpose across our county and in the coming weeks, my office will launch County Watch, a branded campaign that will be used when promoting rural crime initiatives.
“There is a lot of work happening to tackle rural crime and my thanks go to all the officers and staff working on this Operation – I know the rural communities of Dorset and Hampshire will be very pleased by this result.”
Acting Inspector Lee Turner continued: “All items we have been able to identify owners for are in the process of being returned. This includes three vehicles and plant machinery items. Owners for some of the recovered power tools have also been identified and we are currently arranging the return of these.
“We are seeking your help to find the rightful owners of other equipment recovered and ask you to please help us identify the rightful owners of this recovered property.”
A webpage has been set up on the Dorset Police website – www.dorset.police.uk/ophardware – with pictures of some of the recovered items. Anyone who has had items stolen are being asked to please look at the webpage and see if they believe any of the recovered equipment belongs to them.
If you think anything displayed could belong to you, please email Dorset Police at firstname.lastname@example.org - quoting reference number 55220093933.
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